MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It is rare to find one’s perfect match, but 33-year-old Ingrid Lopez and 13-year-old Alexis Forston say they have done just that.
They were matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami seven years ago – and the connection was instantaneous.
“They told me that she didn’t like to play outside in the heat and she didn’t like bugs and I said, you know what, that’s just me,” said Lopez, a financial aid counselor at Barry University.
They have shared many adventures together through the years, learning from each other all along the way.
“When I first met her I was shy. I never used to smile,” said Forston. “But as years went on I learned to be confident and smile.”
Now an eighth grader at Bob Graham Education Center, Alexis says Ingrid supports her in all aspects of life, especially through their talks.
“When I’m confused on essays and stuff she’ll give me advice,” said Forston. “When I had my EYL history thing and she came, it gave me more confidence that everything was gonna be okay.”
The pair try to meet up twice a month – either through special Big Brother Big Sister events, like trying their hands at graffiti art in Wynwood – or simply on their own to catch up.
“The thing that I love the most is just hanging out with her. Sometimes we don’t even do anything in particular. We’ll just go get frozen yogurt,” said Lopez. “She introduced me to frozen yogurt actually. I’ve been more of an ice cream person and she just said we have to try this.”
Despite the 20-year age gap, Ingrid says Alexis has introduced her to many different things — even forcing her to face her fears on occasion.
“She’s actually made me really brave to try new things that I probably would not have tried if it wasn’t for her saying ‘come on, I’m 11, I’m 12 and I’m doing this. How come you’re not gonna do this with me?’” said Lopez.
Alexis says Ingrid’s encouragement never falters.
“When we went to a shark event and we had to cut one of the fins and she was kind of scared, she was like ‘Alexis you did it, Alexis you did it’,” Forston recalled.
As an only child – and without any children of her own – Ingrid says her journey as a mentor is a constant learning process, but that Alexis makes it fun.
“I think it’s a great thing. I really enjoy the time that I spend with Alexis,” said Lopez. “It’s just really interesting and she’s really fun to be around. She’s definitely been a plus to my life and I hope it’s both ways.”
Alexis says she wants to become a law enforcement officer when she grows up so that she can give back to the community and help people, much like Ingrid has helped her.
She is planning to use the lessons learned from her mentor, “to be brave and not nervous to take up a challenge,” said Forston.
As for Ingrid, there is no shortage of pride. She says Alexis is well on her way to accomplishing great things.
“She has just completely blossomed,” said Lopez. “It’s great to see that transition from when I met her in the beginning to how she is now. It’s a wonderful treat.”
(CBS4’s Sarah Chakales contributed to this report).